President Miller, Members of the Senate, ladies and gentlemen
On Being a First Citizen
First Citizen is the name by which Charles Carroll of Carrollton chose to sign several articles published in the Maryland Gazette beginning in February 1773. Carroll, legally a non-citizen who could neither vote nor hold office because he was a Roman Catholic, wrote in response to an unsigned article by the best known lawyer of his day, Daniel Dulany. Dulany held appointed office under Lord Baltimore and did not believe the General Assembly had the right to question or set the fees he charged for his services to the public. In those days public officials generally were not on salary and had to live off the fees they collected.
Dulany tried to argue that the existing constitution worked well and ought not to be changed. He asserted that all of the important issues of what government was and ought to be had been settled years before in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In that year the English monarchy was made subject to a Bill of Rights and the advice of Parliament. From that point on, with the singular exception of the Colonies right to resist Parliamentary taxation without representation, according to Dulany, Maryland had the best government it could ever have. To make his point, he created a conversation between a First Citizen and a Second Citizen. He thought he had been most persuasive, and that he had effectively demolished the arguments weakly advanced by his First Citizen that the Maryland Legislature should have the right to determine what fees public officials could charge for their services. Daniel Dulany soon found he was wrong. A 36 year-old Roman Catholic who could not vote, and could not hold office under the Constitution Dulany so loudly defended, took up the part of First Citizen and wrote a response that put Dulany on the defensive. Encouraged by the first woman to be official Printer To the Colony, Ann Catherine Green, who published his essay as First Citizen in the February 4, 1773 issue of the Maryland Gazette, Carroll launched a crusade to expand the powers of representative government that would continue long after his death at the age of 95 in 1832. Indeed, one of Carroll's last acts as a responsible 'Citizen' was to vote for another man who would dramatically alter the face of American Politics and American Democracy, Andrew Jackson.
In his first foray into the arena of public debate, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as 'First Citizen' argued that public officials were indeed answerable to the Legislature, and that the Legislature had the right, indeed the responsiblity to be constantly adjusting the constitution to make it work better for the benefit of all. Dulany had met his match. He would try to answer Carroll three more times. He even assumed the fictious name of Antilon to help people know who he was. It was unseemly in those days for opinions expressed in print to be signed by their authors, but Dulany, on the defensive, wanted to remind his readers that he had once eloquently defended them against the hated Stamp Tax. He chose 'Antilon' which combines 'anti' and an old english word for unfair taxes, but to no avail.
What began as a simple exchange of views grew into a series of eight letters in which Charles Carroll not only had the last word, he ultimately won the argument. Carroll strongly defended an independent legislature. He was among the first to advance a new concept of government that soon would sweep through the colonies like wild fire. No longer would the people of America allow themselves to be ruled arbitrarily from abroad. While extolling traditional community rights and liberties, Carroll launched a call for a radical restructuring of government based on the advice and consent of the people. Although not yet fully articulated in the First Citizen letters, Carroll was asking all citizens to think about much needed changes in the structure of government that would allow people like him "freedom of speech and thought," that would prevent office holders from having seats in the Legislature, and that would ensure that taxation could not be imposed by anyone not subject to the laws passed by the Legislature.
To Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Constitution was not something fixed somewhere in the distant past, consisting of principles not to be altered, changed or improved upon, but was, rather, a set of guidelines to be written down, debated, and tested by time. To Carroll and others like his cousin Charles Carroll the Barrister, Samuel Chase, and William Paca, all future members of the Maryland Senate, making government work for the good of the whole meant a thoughtful reworking of the structure of government by writing it all down, debating the results, and crafting the final product in committees separately and of the whole.
In effect Carroll as First Citizen, saw government much as every citizen should see it today, in constant need of attention and thoughtful reform.
Not only did Charles Carroll of Carrollton write as First Citizen, he also lived his life as a First Citizen. With the publication of the In addition to helping draft Maryland's first Constitution and signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Carroll served as a member of this body from 1777 to 1801 and as its President. He also served as one of the first United States Senators from Maryland and became one of the staunchest advocates of the B & O Railroad which did so much to further the economic development of Maryland. He taught by word and by example. He was willing to put his ideas, his fortune, and his time, on the line in favor of better, more responsive government. It is in that spirit that Senate President Mike Miller presents the First Citizen Awards on behalf of the Maryland Senate to individuals like Carroll, who have taken up the challenge to make government work better to the benefit of all.
© Copyright April 21, 1998 Maryland State Archives
This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.
In addition to helping draft Maryland's first Constitution and signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Carroll served as a member of this body from 1777 to 1801 and as its President. He also served as one of the first United States Senators from Maryland and became one of the staunchest advocates of the B & O Railroad which did so much to further the economic development of Maryland. He taught by word and by example. He was willing to put his ideas, his fortune, and his time, on the line in favor of better, more responsive government. It is in that spirit that Senate President Mike Miller presents the First Citizen Awards on behalf of the Maryland Senate to individuals like Carroll, who have taken up the challenge to make government work better to the benefit of all.
© Copyright April 21, 1998 Maryland State Archives